Basketball Australia expresses its deep sorrow following the passing of Australian basketball pioneer and Wotjobaluk Elder, Mr Kevin Coombs OAM.
Kevin Coombs has been synonymous with wheelchair basketball in Australia for over four decades. He was Australia’s first-ever indigenous athlete to compete in a Paralympic or Olympics Games, representing the green and gold at Paralympic level first as an 18-year-old in the inaugural Games in 1960, through to his fifth Paralympic Games in 1984. He was twice captain of the Rollers.
As a player, Kevin Coombs’ ball skills and pinpoint passing commanded respect but it was his devastating shooting ability that struck fear into his opponents. That was never more evident than when he led Australia to a Silver Medal at the 1974 Commonwealth Games and two Gold Medals at the 1977 and 1982 FESPIC games.
Mr Coombs dedicated his life to raising the profile of athletes with a disability, and has been a key player in helping lift the profile of para-sport both in Australia and overseas. He fought tirelessly to improve the rights and life outcomes of First Nations peoples, most recently in advocating for the “Yes” vote at the upcoming referendum for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. Kevin has been an ambassador for the National Indigenous Strategy for Literacy and Numeracy as well as the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000, he carried the Paralympic torch into the stadium at Sydney 2000 and is one of only nine people to have an avenue in Sydney Olympic Park in his name.
Kevin Coombs’ name adorns the trophy of Basketball Australia’s annual National Junior Wheelchair Basketball Championships. The inaugural Kevin Coombs Cup was held in Ballarat in 2008 and following the success of the inaugural championship, the Kevin Coombs Cup was conducted bi-annually with state-based teams, then annually from 2015.
Mr Coombs was inducted to the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame in 2007.
Kevin Coombs OAM touched many lives across the basketball, indigenous and wider Australian community and will be greatly missed. Basketball Australia sends its sincere condolences to his family, friends and those who knew him.